An incontrovertible reference to Jesus would first of all have to be from an eyewitness. But outside of Christian testimony, no surviving historical literature could even be expected to contain eyewitness references to Him. So the modern historian must seek non-Christian evidence for Jesus the same way he does for every other person of antiquity who was considered insignificant by the authorities of his day. He must analyze the credibility of secondhand reports.
Combine secondhand reports of Jesus (both non-Christian and Christian) with the eyewitness accounts recorded in the Gospels, and you will find that Jesus compares extremely favorably with other people in history whose historicity in not doubted.
This being known allow me to list a few of the non-Christian authors who did make mention of Jesus to help you see the evidence. Cornelius Tacitus (born A.D. 52-54) was a Roman historian, in A.D. 112. In his writings he alludes to the death of Jesus and to the existence of Christians at Rome. Lucian of Samosata was a satirist of the second century. He scornfully spoke of Christ and Christians. He also alluded to Christ as "the man who was crucified in Palestine because He introduced this new cult into the world." Flavius Josephus (born A.D. 37) was a Jewish historian, and became a Pharisee at age 19; in A.D. 66. He mentions the man of Jesus as well as His death and resurrection and that He appeared to His disciples. He also makes a reference to James the brother of Jesus. Suetonius (A.D. 120) was a Roman historian who mentioned the Jews being disturbed at the "instigation" of Christ. Plinius Secundus, Pliny The Younger was the governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (A.D. 112), he mentioned he killed many Christians.
There are also other men who mentioned Jesus and Christians whom I will list off: Tertullian was a Jurist - theologian of Carthage, Thallus was a Samaritan-born historian, Phlegon was a first century historian, and the Letter of Mara Bar-Serapion.
As you can see there is more than just the Bible that talks about Jesus and what He did. The evidence to support His existence if far greater than some other men who are believed to have existed, leading to the conclusion that Jesus was a real person.
Now that we know there was a man named Jesus who existed about 2000 years ago we must look at who He was. This man according to both Christian and non-Christian history claimed to be God and the messiah (or Savior) for all people. We now need to look at this idea and decide whether we believe Him to be or not. As with any person claiming anything you must decide weather that person is a liar, lunatic, or telling the truth.
Was Jesus a liar? If Jesus, when He made His claims to be God, knew that He was not God, then we must conclude that He was lying and deliberately deceiving His followers. And if He was lying then He was also a hypocrite because He told others that they should be honest. Also, if He was lying you must think of Him as a very evil man because He was telling people to trust Him for their eternal destinies. Lastly, He would have been a fool because it was for His "lie" that He was killed (in a very painful and devastating way). If this was the case we cannot see Jesus as being a good moral teacher. If He was a liar there were no morals inside Him at all.
By looking at the accounts of who Jesus was and the impact He had (seen even today in great ways) on people in such positive ways, how then could a person conclude He was a liar. He must have shown some kind of deception or error to those who were closest to Him yet every disciple (save one) died for who they believe Jesus to be. The kind of trust that would cause a person to give all, including their life, to such a person must point to truth. There is no way a man could live every day with a group of people and pretend to be something or somebody He is not, without there being some errors. Based on that we can conclude that Jesus was not a liar because no one could lie to that many people for that long and still have those people willing to die for him.
Was Jesus a Lunatic? It is possible to sincerely believe something and yet still be wrong. This is another argument for Jesus. He may have thought that He was God but He was just a few crackers short of a lunch.
In the culture that Jesus lived, if he had claimed to be God and asked people to trust Him with their eternal destiny it would not have been just a lightly looked upon mistake. He would have been deemed the looniest of the loony.
Looking at the life Jesus lived we start to see problems with this theory. When you look at His life you don't see abnormalities and imbalances that we know usually go along with being insane (no matter how severe). His life showed consistency, maturity, and character. You would not expect this from a lunatic. And again you must look at the people who followed Him. To follow a lunatic would soon prove to be more of a circus than a life changing and life giving experience. In sole fact that the disciples and others followed Him and lived closely with Him only to give their lives to Him would demonstrate that Jesus was playing with a full deck. You must also ask yourself the question, "If Jesus was a lunatic, how then could he have said and done some of the most profound things this world has ever seen?" The only logical conclusion is that He could not have done all He did if He were truly loony. This leaves us with only one other conclusion.
Was Jesus God? This is the only logical conclusion. If He were neither a liar nor a lunatic then He must have been the Lord of the universe. There is no other option. You must then decide is this God someone I want to know or not. Before you make your decision though you should know something about this God. You should also know what it means to live without this God. That is what draws us to the message of Jesus Christ.
If you prayed that prayer and really meant it, then you are now a child of God. Congratulations! WE PRAISE GOD! Nothing can ever take this relationship with God away from you. Call Dan Sommer, our Student Ministries Pastor, right away (269-429-1041), he wants to talk with you!
Jesus assures us
I suggest getting and reading a Bible every day (start with the book of John in the New Testament). Talk to God all the time about what you are doing and thinking (i.e. pray). Find and get involved in a church that is consistent with the message of Jesus. Tell people of your new relationship with Jesus. Tell people of Jesus message.
*All verses are from the New Living Translation